Detentions Hit Highest Level Since March 2020; Is It Enough?



The number of illegal aliens in immigration detention centers is at its highest level since March 2020. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the ongoing surge of border crossings.

But before Joe Biden can claim the title of Jailer-in-Chief, there are other key metrics to weigh.

First, the 27,217 detainees held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were dwarfed by 106,080 migrants released to alternative tracking programs. FAIR reported last month that glitches in an ICE-approved mobile app show these alternatives to detention are more about public relations than actual results.

Then there are the “gotaways” who elude Border Patrol agents and outnumber apprehensions, by a wide margin in some sectors. Border Patrol officials conservatively estimated that more than 40,000 migrants who crossed illegally into this country in April were not apprehended and, of course, never detained.

And here’s another notable statistic: Of the 27,217 illegal aliens in ICE and CBP detention centers, 21,667 (79.6 percent) had no criminal records. This in itself is not a bad thing. Simply not having a criminal record shouldn’t mean you should get a free pass for violating our immigration laws. But it is curious, considering that the Biden administration says it’s focused on criminal aliens. Where did all the “bad hombres” go?

Several so-called detention facilities now merely serve as halfway houses on a path into the country. A family “staging center” in Karnes City, Texas, for example, manages its capacity of 830 by busing or flying migrants to the U.S. interior. Within 72 hours of arriving at the center, Karnes City’s charges are shipped on to designated sponsors.

In McAllen, Texas, the dispersal program is both haphazard and burdensome. The Border Patrol dropped off a record 6,238 asylum seekers at local shelters between June 24 and 30. Overwhelmed city officials are bracing for another spike this month.

Back in April, the American Civil Liberties Union demanded closure of 39 detention centers, alleging “thousands of empty beds” amid “inhumane and life-threatening conditions.” Three months on, ICE and CBP appear to be filling more bunks, at least on a short-term basis.

Still, the question remains: Is the administration keeping pace with the daily influx of illegal aliens through effective and appropriate detention policies — or merely out-processing migrants to towns and cities across America, with no expectation they will ever appear before an immigration judge? The latest data point to the latter scenario.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.